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Procedure : 2006/2274(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0159/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0159/2007

Debates :

PV 23/05/2007 - 14
CRE 23/05/2007 - 14

Votes :

PV 24/05/2007 - 9.1
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0212

Debates
Wednesday, 23 May 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. Innovation Strategy (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report by Adam Gierek, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on putting knowledge into practice: A broad-based innovation strategy for Europe [2006/2274(INI)] (A6-0159/2007).

 
  
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  Adam Gierek (PSE), rapporteur. (PL) Mr President, The aim of this document is to implement the Lisbon Strategy in real terms and to lay the foundations for a European innovation policy. The aim is to apply to the implementation of innovation policy instruments which will rationalise research, the flow of knowledge into the economy and the implementation of innovative solutions in business and social practice.

First of all, let us ask ourselves the question: what is innovation? Defining the term is essential, as a great deal of funding is allocated to innovation in current regional development programmes. It should be understood as meaning any innovative solutions to existing problems that shape the human environment, in other words, the creation of material and intellectual products and their use, including in the field of service provision. The aim of innovation is to continually rationalise how products are made and used, and how services are provided. It is associated with the efficient use of energy and materials, as well as of working time and protecting the workplace and the environment. It therefore relates to anything that improves the quality of human life.

Of course, we need to make sure that any artificial innovations, such as known products re-introduced to the market under a different name, are excluded. This, unfortunately, is a common ploy which is more often than not preceded by deceptive advertising.

The broad formulation of the issues facing innovation, which we are dealing with here, will make it possible to transplant known innovative solutions from one area to another where they have not yet been implemented, in accordance with the above definition. In such cases, the criteria of local innovation should, it seems, be defined by local authorities with the help of experts. And these tasks need proper funding.

Innovation is stimulated above all by a properly functioning European market for goods and commercial services incorporating all four freedoms; an appropriate innovative approach and education, but above all a structure, as educational courses are currently turning out graduates with little innovative potential; better use in practice of the huge intellectual resources of research establishments, especially in the new EU Member States; more effective use of tax concessions allowing, for instance, the establishment of innovation funds, as well as credit guarantees, public procurement and public-private partnerships. Innovation also stimulates the synergy effect thanks to the creation of uniform Community norms and standards. And ultimately the proper regulation of intellectual property stimulates innovation.

In the broader sense of the term, innovation covers three groups of innovative solutions. The first group covers rationalisation in all areas, including administration, education, tourism, business and many other areas where processes can be simplified and streamlined, but in ways which would not be considered an invention. Such innovation tends to require a great deal of practical knowledge.

The second group relates to innovation based on inventions whose characteristic feature is the fact that they can be patented, or could constitute the basis for industrial or utility models. Innovation of this kind requires a large amount of theoretical and practical knowledge, much of which has been accumulated in patent offices and similar establishments.

The third group relates to innovative research into new, strategic designs, systems and technologies conducted on a broad scale at the level of European or national research programmes.

Fundamental innovative research, and particularly applied research, leads to the creation of pioneering markets and new patents. The proper development of the second and third category of innovation require a standard Community strategy for patents and licences, and the appointment of a centre of innovation in the form of the European Technology Institute.

The present systems of patents, of which there are as many in the European Union as there are Member States, are too costly, and the procedures are too slow. The lack of a functional, cost-effective and efficient European patenting system does not encourage innovation.

The current patent policy in the European Union benefits the large corporations, which impose conditions on competition benefiting themselves by using patent protection. It does not favour small and medium-sized enterprises, which could be the main drivers of innovation.

In summary, I would like to say that innovation in the economy and public life depends both on properly functioning pure market mechanisms, and EU and national regulation, and this depends on how projects are supported from budget funds.

Our task is to create a European innovation area by having a comprehensive and suitable education, fiscal, research, patenting and information policy.

To conclude, I would like to express my great thanks for the fruitful collaboration of my colleagues, the vice-rapporteur Mrs Toia and Messrs Kubaciek, Hammerstein, Randsorf and also Mr Janowski.

 
  
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  Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, honourable Members, the creation of growth and employment was the urgent task undertaken by the Commission when it took office. I believe we are making excellent progress. The general economic situation in Europe is better than it has been for a long time, but we have not yet been able to reverse the trend. We must ensure that this growth is sustainable.

That is why we need the appropriate boundary conditions, which allow European businesses to further improve their competitiveness. A key factor in this is Europe’s innovative strength and its ability to find practical and commercial applications for our outstanding research results. We must compete on the basis of higher standards and better quality. We must be better than the others. We must apply the highest standards to the quality of our products. We must be technological leaders. New technologies, new processes, new products that give us the edge over others, these give us an opportunity.

I should like to mention two very recent examples of how innovative ideas can increase the competitiveness of companies. Take innovative sensors for airbags. These have turned airbags from an excellent but unaffordable idea into a value-for-money, surface-covering item of safety equipment in use all over the world. At present 50 million of these sensors are produced annually on this basis. They are no longer used exclusively in the motor industry, but are also found in, for example, mobile phones, laptops and DNA chips.

A quite different success story is the invention of a biodegradable plastic bag. A tiny group of scientists invented this environmentally friendly product and turned the patent to good account in the market. In the space of a few years this has grown into a successful medium-size business with a turnover of EUR 50 million and 60 patents – and the trend is upwards. These are only two examples from the hundreds, if not thousands of cases found every year in Europe, which we need to create employment and maintain it in the long term.

I am very grateful to the European Parliament and the rapporteur Mr Gierek for their support of our innovation strategy. That is particularly true of the areas also identified as a priority by the Council of Europe in December 2006. These are the topics to which we are devoting special efforts at present. They include, for example, our policy of strengthening clusters and the initiatives on creating and stimulating leading-edge markets, as part of which we shall be presenting before the end of the year after consultation with the interested groups a proposal for the establishment of several innovative leading-edge markets.

Something else we are using in support of innovation is standardisation – a term that covers a great deal, and a communication on this subject is planned for the autumn of this year.

The allocation of public funds also needs to be done more with a view to the more targeted support of innovation, and we have done this by drafting the guidelines for the use of the Structural Funds accordingly and by adapting the aid rules in such a way that innovation has to be capable of being more strongly promoted than formerly.

I regard the improved protection of intellectual property as most especially important, for it is crucial not only at the European level but also in the global context. As the rapporteur rightly said, small and medium-sized enterprises find it difficult to secure what is rightfully theirs where intellectual property rights are concerned, and the Commission is working on a strategy for helping them do this.

I would also like to point out that such rights have to be affordable and of high quality, and it is for that reason that the advancement of the Community patent is crucial in terms of the competitiveness of our economy, for the present state of affairs in patent policy is a serious hindrance to its ability to compete.

I am very grateful to you for attaching such significance to small businesses in particular, for it is indeed here that the greatest potential for innovation is to be found, and it is important that access to financial resources be made easier for them – which is precisely what we are doing by means of the competitiveness and innovation programme, which is specifically aimed at small and medium-sized innovative enterprises.

We also agree on the outstanding significance of eco-innovation, which will be a very major issue in the years ahead of us, for both it and energy efficiency are areas in which innovative European solutions can make headway on the global market, making us more competitive internationally and thereby also capable of bringing about growth and creating new jobs.

I get the impression that there is, to a large degree, agreement between this House, the Council and the Commission that the continued improvement and promotion of innovation is indispensable if we are to keep Europe on course for success; we all know what is needed, so what matters now is that we should all actually do it.

 
  
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  Sharon Bowles (ALDE), Draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – Mr President, this report contains a long list of ways in which to encourage innovation, many of which are valuable. But I cannot reiterate too strongly that easy access – and I do not just mean simpler or less complicated access – to innovation programmes and ventures for smaller businesses is imperative and a lot of work remains to be done in that sphere.

I am pleased that the report includes several of the suggestions from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, in particular the one emphasising that the 3% of GDP target for R[amp]D expenditure should be a minimum. I am also pleased that it welcomes the proposal for a Risk-Sharing Finance Facility and recognises the problems associated with protecting innovation in services, most notably smaller businesses’ difficulties with trade secrets and confidentiality agreements, which can hinder their ability to raise finance.

It is clearly true that intellectual property is intimately related to innovation. However, I am sorry to see statements in the report that are pre-emptive of the work that is going on within the Commission under the auspices of Commissioner McCreevy on various ways to improve the patent system.

The approach of that work is pragmatic and constructive and may offer better solutions, for example, than trying to integrate the European Patent Office into the Community, which is by no means a simple solution, nor most likely to resolve most of the outstanding problems. It is certainly not something that could be achieved rapidly.

Innovation, intellectual property and competitiveness are part of globalisation, where international norms are important. This means an outward-looking international approach is essential, and I welcome recognition of that with regard to standards. I caution against being too introspective with regard to patents. The victim is eventually competitiveness.

 
  
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  Barbara Weiler (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this subject is naturally very seductive for politicians, as it is so broad-based – which is the way the Commission wanted it. Therefore, I should like to confine myself to a few of the most important points on which the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection decided – with relatively little controversy.

We believe that a well-functioning internal market creates a favourable environment for innovation. Our understanding of a well-functioning internal market is one that has no unnecessary barriers or detrimental effects on society. We advocate better management of the transfer of academic results, particularly to SMEs, than has previously been the case, since SMEs – as the Commissioner has already said – have been a driver of innovation and creativity. SMEs are also the enterprises who, in Germany and throughout Europe, have been devoting particular attention to training young people. I predict disaster if fewer young people are trained and thus qualified to work on our issues.

We believe that better regulation can give rise to unnecessary burdens on SMEs, but that it will raise consumer trust and confidence. We advocate the swifter introduction of European standards and supra-EU international standards, and we believe that sound, flexible rules in the field of public procurement could also help improve the innovation strategy. We believe that the provision of information to SMEs and other institutions must be improved, and – to reiterate – I welcome the fact that the Committee on Regional Development intends to introduce a technology adviser.

I should like to conclude by mentioning two more aspects that we consider particularly important: the promotion of innovations with social applications, as we believe this has prospects, and the need for this Commission initiative to also give citizens a better quality of life.

 
  
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  Christa Prets (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the fact that the most recent Innovation Scoreboard shows Europe to be increasingly well placed in an international context is a welcome development. It is now the fourth year in a row that the innovation gap between the USA and the European Union has been narrowing. Nevertheless, at a time of constant change and rapid developments, we are repeatedly called upon to tackle new innovations. In a long-term perspective, innovation is a necessary response to future global problems. Throughout the EU, it is much rarer for innovative enterprises to work together with universities and other higher education establishments than with customers and suppliers. Interaction between universities and educational establishments, on the one hand, and enterprises, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, on the other, is a further prerequisite for economic innovativeness.

In this connection, I should like to mention the European Institute of Technology, and would ask the Council and the Commission to provide a financial basis for this. Funds should not be taken from current programmes to allocate to this Institute, however – to do so would be counterproductive and would interfere with the other projects. The innovation potential of SMEs is particularly great at local and regional level. Throughout the EU, this innovative potential must be better recognised, fostered, and cultivated through specific political measures, including improving access for the regions. Taking the example of Austria, according to 2004 statistics, more new or significantly improved products were placed on the market by small than by medium-sized enterprises. I should also like to mention the promotion of clusters, and to say by way of conclusion that innovation policy should also be discussed in relation to women, and that women must be given better access.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Zvěřina (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs.(CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome the fact that, on this issue, no unrealistic goals have been proposed for catching up with and overtaking the rest of the world. In Europe we must attempt to ensure, from an entirely realistic perspective, that our science, research and development do not lose contact with the rest of the world. When it comes to technology and innovation, I doubt there is a magic wand that politicians can wave.

My worldwide experience on various political programmes in this area makes me somewhat sceptical. The EU has recently had a less than positive experience in the form of the so-called Lisbon Strategy. Our responsibility as politicians should be above all to define a reasonable and stable legal framework and of course the greatest possible financial support for research and technological innovation. In my view, science and technological development requires transparency, sufficient freedom to carry out innovation and, last but not least, funding.

I am pleased that the report includes calls to enhance the prestige of research and development. After all, it should be one of the main tasks of politicians to influence people’s values. In the Committee on Legal Affairs, we once again discussed regulatory and legislative aspects of the European innovation environment. As regards protecting intellectual property, the EU is bound by the relevant international agreements and it should be capable of harmonising its own economic and cultural environment.

We can see some typical shortcomings in the area of patent policy, where there has been no significant improvement, in spite of repeated efforts. Once again, we note with dismay that the EU’s patent environment is inconsistent and lacking transparency. In Europe, scientists and inventors, as well as our technological centres, have to spend considerably more on patents than is usually the case elsewhere. This report is, I feel, markedly lacking in controversy, because we all clearly recognise the importance of innovation for the future of the EU.

 
  
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  Ján Hudacký, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (SK) First I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Gierek, for a balanced and thorough report.

Notwithstanding the fact that the report deals with the subject of fostering innovation in the European Union from every conceivable angle, I would like to highlight an important factor that cuts across our entire innovation strategy. I have in mind the advancement of a competitive environment and flexible initiatives, which should be the driving force for innovation in companies, clusters, technological and development centres, and similar institutions. Levelling the playing field for activities that rely on an adequate supply of expertise, experience and know-how, and which are directed at meeting market requirements as efficiently as possible, is key to ensuring the smooth development of all initiatives in this area.

Hence, we need to make arrangements at local, regional, national or international levels in order to allow the formation of information-based groups which will apply knowledge through an R[amp]D and business environment that is flexibly structured and that will encourage both cooperation and competition between them.

In practice this would mean that a university, research and development centre or innovative enterprise may form an ad hoc cluster and work together on an innovative project, and then fiercely compete with each other as part of a different cluster working on another innovative project. In formulating a new strategy we should keep clear of inflexible long-term arrangements, which tend to close in on themselves, becoming institutionalised and entrenched in a loosely-justified long-term system often based on senseless requirements, such as the principles of excellence or critical mass, which typically exclude small entities from innovation.

Such complicated arrangements use up enormous resources in an inefficient manner and after a while lose the ability to respond flexibly to the rapidly changing requirements of a globalised world.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, în numele grupului PSE. – La Lisabona, Uniunea Europeană şi-a propus să devină cea mai dinamică şi competitivă economie bazată pe cunoaştere. Pentru a încuraja cercetarea, au fost dezvoltate programele-cadru de cercetare şi instrumente precum JEREMIE, care sprijină dezvoltarea întreprinderilor mici şi mijlocii la nivel regional. Aceste instrumente financiare ar trebui să existe şi la nivel naţional, cu sprijinul sistemului bancar. Din păcate, există încă multe regiuni ale Uniunii Europene care nu investesc 3% din produsul intern brut în cercetare şi dezvoltare. Există însă şi state membre care au decis să-şi dezvolte economia prin investiţii masive în resurse umane, în noile tehnologii şi în cercetare şi inovare. Aceste state au acordat inclusiv facilităţi fiscale companiilor care au investit în cercetare. Ele nu trebuie să rămână însă cazuri izolate şi solicităm Comisiei Europene să faciliteze cunoaşterea bunelor practici şi să recomande statelor membre acordarea de facilităţi fiscale pentru investiţiile realizate în cercetare.

O economie bazată pe cunoaştere se bazează pe triunghiul cunoaşterii format din universităţi, centre de cercetare, parcuri ştiinţifice şi tehnologice şi companii, iar toate acestea trebuie să fie sprijinite. În acelaşi timp, Uniunea Europeană trebuie să asigure un echilibru corespunzător între accesul la informaţii, la rezultatele cercetării, şi protecţia proprietăţii intelectuale. Pentru a încuraja cercetătorii şi, mai ales, companiile să investească mai mult în cercetare şi în cercetarea aplicată, trebuie să protejăm munca intelectuală a acestora. În acelaşi timp, roata nu trebuie reinventată, iar rezultatele cercetării trebuie să fie disponibile celor interesaţi. Pentru aceasta, reţelele de comunicaţii de mare viteză, accesibile în şcoli, universităţi, parcuri tehnologice, institute de cercetare şi companii, trebuie să fie infrastructura minimă existentă.

 
  
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  Patrizia Toia, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the growth of Europe’s economy depends increasingly on the capacity for innovation and the technological advancement of Europe’s production system, so that it can maintain competitiveness in an increasingly tough international system. Unfortunately, the innovation gap between Europe and the other large world economies, particularly the United States, is still significant and is detrimental to Europe. We can say, however, that in our Europe, in the European States, there is a considerable research capacity in the universities, in the centres of excellence and in the laboratories; this excellence is widespread, and there is a high level of specialist and scientific knowledge.

What is tragically missing in Europe is the opportunity and the capacity to transfer this research and its results into productive processes. What is missing is, in fact, the capacity for technological transfer of the know-how provided by research, to reinvigorate the production system, businesses and service companies in all spheres, in terms of innovation of products, processes and organisational innovation. Commissioner, the efforts you and the Commission have made to move forward on the innovation issue are very positive: the measures in the Seventh Framework Programme, the CIPs, the financial instruments that have today been relaunched, all these elements need promotion, and this is needed even more to sustain the projects for training to support small and medium-sized enterprises, with adequate financial resources and with appropriate organisational and procedural instruments.

There is a need for similar initiatives, and there is still a need for different initiatives. More accessible organisational instruments and procedural routes need to be defined to ensure that these efforts of ours really produce concrete results within Europe’s industries and services. To increase innovation in Europe, I believe that it is also necessary, as stated in the report by our colleague Mr Gierek, to start with a cultural concept that is in favour of innovation, even at school, which may seem far removed from the processes of production, but is not, in fact. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers and businessmen.

It is necessary to labour this point in order to create in Europe an attitude, a mentality, an openness to change, to research, to experimentation, and, finally, also a readiness to undertake training. At a time when we are talking a great deal about training in Europe, I believe that this is important. As you point out in the Commission’s report and as is also stated in our resolution, the public sector is important. I have a great belief in the contribution that the public sector can make to innovation, directly through improvements that produce better quality and a more adequate range of services offered by public administrations; if public administrations reinvigorate themselves and adopt better production processes, this can also help with the growth of the economy and the cost reduction.

The last point relates to ‘clusters’. The Commissioner spoke of these, as did my fellow Members; it is very important to link regional policy with innovation.

 
  
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  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, I would congratulate the rapporteur on behalf of the Union for Europe of the Nations Group. Two weeks ago I presented a report on innovation in the context of regional policy, and I would like to thank the author for incorporating this aspect in his report.

I believe that Mr Gierek’s report can bring about more effective and practical results from research, patents, inventions and rationalisation in the broader economy. Without it we are threatened with failure. This is not because of innovation per se, but because of artificial, or false, innovation. There is a glaring need for us to use the results of the work done by scientists, inventors and engineers who create the real added value for Europe and our civilisation.

We must find out where the sticking-points for implementing innovations are, and whether there is not too much red tape. EU institutions, along with the governments of Member States and the regional authorities, can also play a role in encouraging positive action in this respect, because it is often the regions that have first-rate universities, research establishments or clusters. We have already discussed the clear role to be played by small and medium-sized enterprises. However, we cannot forget the financial instruments, including tax instruments, and the proper use of the structural funds.

Innovation naturally relates to specific problems of design technology, and particularly today digital technologies, nanotechnologies, materials engineering, biotechnology, medicine and so forth. Hence the huge opportunities facing the European Institute of Technology and the proper implementation of the Seventh framework programmes. We should also underline that innovation is needed in education, management, administration, services, agriculture, utilities, etc.

To conclude, I would like to say that real innovations always have a humane aspect to them, both on the part of their creators, and on the part of their users, as they serve humankind.

 
  
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  David Hammerstein, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (ES) Mr President, firstly, please accept my sympathies following the result in the football. We see Liverpool as our team to a certain extent, given that so many Spaniards play for them.

Turning to innovation, I would like to thank Mr Gierek for his work, since innovation is a great challenge for the European Union, for the economy, for people, for communities and for territorial cohesion. I would like to point out the importance of the emphasis placed on programmes such as Eureka, which benefits small businesses.

Also the promotion of initiatives such as the Eurostar initiative is important for small businesses and the whole notion of creating clusters of small businesses, which are promoted, for sharing information, for receiving public support, can be a shared objective for the whole of the European Union.

We are seeing a change of thinking in the Community: from the creation of tarmac motorways to the creation of information highways; rather than directing almost all of our European funds towards concrete, directing it towards knowledge. That is important when we are considering what to spend the funds or the majority of the Structural and regional funds on.

I was recently in Poland and I wished to share the experience of trying to divert increasing amounts of funds towards research, innovation and infrastructures, not just heavy infrastructures, but also intelligence infrastructures.

Because, at the same time, the issue of intellectual property is extremely important. If we create insurmountable obstacles to scientific and technical information, we may also thwart the necessary requirement of creating a closely woven economic and cultural network. We may deny access to the information necessary for innovation.

We must not confuse the accumulation of patents with innovation. Because in Europe, despite what some people say, we are currently attracting considerable amounts of risk capital drawn in by a less strict intellectual property system.

We should not make the mistake of copying the United States’ system of intellectual property patents at a time when that country is entirely rethinking their system of patents because it is too costly and because it promotes the creation of patents for their own sake, creating lists of patents more in order to protect what one has than in order to conquer new innovations.

We are entirely in favour of integrating the European Patent Office into the European Institutions and keeping it under democratic control.

Furthermore, we believe that, in the case of real, physical, patents, which could promote innovation, there must be patenting. However, we must not accept the mistaken notion that intellectual property is an end in itself. No. Intellectual property must serve the imagination.

The priority must be sharing. The priority must be to create fields of lively creative activity in which information can be shared, in order to create a better world and a better social fabric.

 
  
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  President. I now call Mr van Nistelrooij. Are you, by any chance, related to the footballer?

 
  
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  Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – Yes I am, but not tonight because I have to be here at this time. I am very sorry. Mr President, I would just like to say that Adam Gierek’s report comes just in time.

(NL) … in view of the new and very hefty challenge we are facing at world level. Globalisation is pricing us out of the market, while some sectors of our traditional manufacturing industry are leaving it, and Mr Aho’s much-discussed report calls for more clustering, a more critical stance among the public, more specialisation and for harnessing creativity.

In the Union, we spend about 43% of the Budget on reinforcing our competitiveness in the form of structural funds, money for research and money for the small and medium-sized enterprises. My question remains whether we, with these instruments, are taking due account of competitive relations. What do we do if it eventually transpires that we have an insufficient number of technically trained people to carry out various jobs?

Globally, it appears that we do not focus enough, while in Europe, we do not dare bring certain things into profile via knowledge regions of all kinds. As I see it, open innovation for large and small companies, together with knowledge institutions and governments are the answer to this.

In the final analysis, we need top regions. This is about a top sport, as Mr Verheugen also pointed out. This is about wanting to be a leader in technology. Without a leader, there is no following. In this case, there is insufficient scope for cohesion policy to be deployed across Europe, including the less developed areas.

I think we need to be bold enough to re-calibrate our policy in the next few years. We need more focus. This is where Mr Gierek’s report sounds the right note, and for that I am very grateful to him.

 
  
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  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – (HU) The economy of the European Union is facing ever increasing global challenges. In order to meet these challenges, it needs specialised companies which engage in innovative activities with high added value, and which collaborate effectively with each other.

At present, small and medium-sized enterprises are faced with numerous problems. Prominent among these are their low visibility at the European level on account of their size, and the difficulty they encounter in accessing services that are essential for competitiveness on an international scale. This market disadvantage resulting from their size can be overcome through networking and clustering.

Clustering and creating growth poles are therefore important and effective tools of economic development. Although there is no doubt that the developmental poles fulfil a key role in increasing European competitiveness, the implementation of the European Union’s innovative strategy should not emphasise only such research and development centres, but we must keep in mind that the European Union is a unified entity that combines both developed and less-developed areas. It must play a role both in increasing innovative opportunities and in reducing regional disparities.

There needs to be better cooperation among the various organisations, economic actors, universities, research centres and the public sector. We must ensure that the knowledge obtained through these channels is put into practice in companies’ operations. We need to simplify the administrative processes, facilitate financing and design a tax system that provides incentives to encourage the growth of enterprises’ innovative capacity.

Moreover, by injecting fresh blood into Europe’s business life, innovative strategies should increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the Union’s economy. It would be a unique opportunity if, through the European Development Centre, we could make such developments accessible to everyone, and could create opportunities for the ongoing exchange of information. Innovation belongs to everyone, and the goal is that it should improve living conditions and the quality of life for all citizens throughout the European Union.

 
  
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  Šarūnas Birutis (ALDE). – (LT) Mr President, Commissioner, colleagues, I would like to thank Mr Adam Gierek and all contributing Members of Parliament for this comprehensive report. For my part, I would like to briefly focus my attention on certain important aspects.

First of all, I suggest that it be stressed even more clearly that regional partnership is precisely the key to implementing the European innovation policy that we are creating. Enterprise 'networking' is very important, as it provides enterprises, especially small and medium-size firms, with the opportunity to feel more secure and to react dynamically to the challenges of the new globalisation. Europe and the Member States must encourage the formation of such a system!

Secondly, the priority areas in scientific research and innovation propagation need to be chosen very responsibly. Lithuania has just completed a thorough review of the development of its economy according to regional and global tendencies, and it showed that the economy grows not so much because of the creation of new economic sectors and the allocation of national funds to those sectors, but because of economic sector transformations already in progress. Therefore, to guarantee stable economic growth it is essential to encourage innovation in enterprises in every sector of the economy, not forgetting that the vitality of high-technology enterprises depends very much on the vitality of local traditional industries and on the application of new ideas.

Colleagues, in the long run the future of Europe's industries depends not on which sectors of industry we choose to develop, but on whether we manage to create a new society in which implementing new ideas is a way of life!

The third thing to which I wish to draw attention is each country's handling and evaluation of innovation. New methodology is required for assessing innovation! Studies show that the way Lithuania and other European Union countries assess innovation in various economic sectors, based on the accepted evaluation methodology (‘European Scoreboard’), may be quite erroneous, and the established statement about a direct link between scientific research activity and the economic innovation of a national economy raises some serious doubts.

 
  
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  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, in taking the floor in this debate I would like to draw attention to the question of research and development in the European Union, which receives a mere 2% or so of GDP, when the most developed countries outside the EU, including the United States, allocate at least 3% of their GDP for this. In this situation, we are not only failing to close the gap between the United States and Europe, but letting it grow larger.

Secondly, it is very important that the cash for research and development from the EU budget is supplemented by funds from national budgets, local government, and in particular the private sector. It is anticipated that in 2010 the costs of R[amp]D in the European Union will be 2.6% of GDP, of which as much as two-thirds will come from the private sector.

And thirdly, I must express my hope that the research and development funding allocated from the EU budget will not just go to established academies and research centres, but also to universities and research establishments from the new as well as the old Member States.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MRS KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU
Vice-President

 
  
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  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE).(SK) First I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Gierek, and Mr Hudacký, my colleague and shadow rapporteur in the lead Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, for including several amendments in this report proposed in the opinions of the Committee on Development and the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection. I have participated in drawing up these amendments as a shadow rapporteur for my political group.

The European Union is facing new challenges in a globalising world, and therefore competitiveness should be strengthened by promoting the commercial exploitation of the findings that emerge from research and development efforts. The European Union has numerous instruments that could be used more effectively to promote innovation. In particular I am referring to internal market instruments, such as the public procurement of innovative products and services, the establishment of public-private partnerships in innovative areas, and the application of technical standards. I firmly believe that the fast and effective introduction of technical innovations can be achieved through standardisation. Therefore I am very glad that the rapporteur took this idea on board and incorporated into his report my amendments concerning the rapid development of technical standards in new areas, especially in the area of innovative technologies and telecommunications technologies.

In my amendments I emphasised the importance of the timely identification and promotion of leading markets. Examples of markets where the European Union may potentially become a global leader include the smart textile industry, environmental technologies or electronic health cards. Now that very little time is left until the 2010 deadline set in the Lisbon Strategy, we must focus on European regions. More than ever before, a competitive Europe needs the dynamism, inventiveness and enthusiasm for innovation of its regions.

A consistent transparent framework of state support serving as an incentive could be instrumental in launching regional partnerships based on the cooperation of small and medium-sized enterprises, universities, research institutes, local authorities and financial institutions.

I urge Member States not to underestimate the promotion of innovation strategies, which must become a priority within the operational programmes. I believe that if we use the EU offer of adequate allocations from structural funds for investment into research, innovation and continued education, we will manage to create new jobs and prevent the brain drain and depopulation that has been seen particularly in less attractive European regions.

 
  
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  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE).(DE) Madam President, Commissioner, I should like to start by congratulating Mr Gierek, who has presented a truly excellent report. It is good that we are discussing innovation, and it is good that we have used the broad concept of innovation – something that has been neglected for years. For much too long, we have concentrated solely on research itself rather than on implementing its results – but here, at long last, we have a report that does concentrate on this.

The broad concept of innovation also represents an opportunity for us to achieve dominance in new fields. One example is the discussion on climate change, in which Europe is indeed creating new innovation areas, particularly by focusing on CO2 reduction. I think this is a very good thing, and it is also mentioned frequently in the report. I should like to illustrate what this means using the example of the motor-vehicle market, where we have a strong position, where we are even leaders in the premium sector at international level. It means that we can indeed set ourselves ambitious objectives – that is not the problem. After all, we are talking about reducing the CO2 from exhaust fumes.

What we also have to do, however, is to follow up these objectives with research projects, and focus on them. This is still something of a weak point for us. We can set ourselves ambitious objectives; but, if we are to create model markets, we really have to follow them up.

I could also mention the EIT, the new European Institute of Technology. This is a good thing. I should like to offer my personal congratulations to the Commissioner for taking the initiative in the form of the CIP, the framework programme for competitiveness and innovation, which is now to be followed by its own innovation agency. This is an excellent initiative! Parliament – and I, in particular, as a former rapporteur – will support you on this.

One final word on the Lisbon process. Let us replace the phrase ‘Lisbon process’ with ‘Liverpool process’. Tonight, Liverpool are playing Milan. Two years ago, they came back from 3-0 down. That is how far behind Europe is at the moment. We have fallen behind, so we have to catch up. This is possible, as Liverpool proved. Therefore I hereby proclaim the Liverpool process!

 
  
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  Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE). – (PL) Thank you, Mr Chatzimarkakis, for giving us the latest soccer results! Madam President, first of all congratulations to the rapporteur, Adam Gierek, and Commissioner Verheugen, for all their innovation initiatives.

Innovation is undoubtedly the paramount issue in the Lisbon Strategy, as it means competitiveness. The innovation strategy set out by Mr Gierek in his report deserves respect, as it contains sixty-one detailed points.

The new definition of innovation is important: it covers not only technology, but also marketing, management, services and non-technological innovations. An important point is a cohesive innovation strategy; in particular a knowledge triangle, which is represented here by the European Technology Institute. Also important are protecting intellectual property and stimulating the market or the macro-economy. The report brings together previous developments, such as the Competition and Innovation Programme, the EU educational programmes, and, of course, the Seventh Framework Programme, very well.

One question that arises, however, is why do we have problems in the European Union? The answer is the weakness of the market. Firstly, we have overblown public assistance. Secondly, we protect leading national companies. Thirdly, we are slow to respond to monopolistic practices. And fourthly, we do not have a complete, uniform market for services, labour and the movement of capital. Instead of opening up, we withdraw. We rarely listen to the market or to consumers, with the exception of today’s vote on the Roaming Directive.

It is clear that the Commission’s proposals are better for the Lisbon Strategy and for the European market than the proposals of the Member States. I would like to congratulate the Commission, and congratulate the rapporteur once again.

 
  
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  President. – The Commission has informed us that it will not intervene at this stage. It has already received a great many congratulations.

That debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow, Thursday, at 12 noon.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
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  Piia-Noora Kauppi (PPE-DE), in writing. – Innovation in Europe is hampered by the absence of an adequate regime for protecting intellectual property rights. This much is clear. The report rightly stresses this point and calls for a number of improvements.

However, I believe we should go further in identifying the flaws in the current system, and be more ambitious about our proposed solutions. The report proposes incorporating the European Patent Office, presently an intergovernmental body outside the EU, into Community structures.

This is a welcome idea, albeit one that will take years to bring about. Bureaucracies do not merge easily, especially ones such as the EPO which have developed a questionable profit-making and unaccountable orientation. It grants patents too easily from the point of view of achieving broad-based innovation across the economy, which too often only serves the interests of the patent holders.

Therefore, in anticipation of a Community patent run, eventually, by an EU patent office, let me reiterate my support for the efforts of the Commission to enact medium-term pragmatic solutions, e.g. the European Patent Litigation Agreement. It is only a first step, but one that is badly needed for common rules to develop, and innovation to flourish.

 
Last updated: 3 August 2007Legal notice